BWW Interview: Jake Mills of THE SOUND OF MUSIC at The Fox Theatre Enchants Audiences Through Thoughtful Comedy
For two days only, April 13th and 14th, you have the unique chance to catch the national tour of The Sound of Music at The Fox Theatre in Downtown Detroit. While most people around the world are familiar with this classic film, this production is a descendant of the original Broadway production which won five musicals back in 1960, including "Best Musical." Based during the Nazi rise to power, this story centers around Maria, a nun who takes a job as the governess to a large Austrian family. BroadwayWorld Detroit had the opportunity to interview one of the cast members of this acclaimed production, Jake Mills. Mills plays Max Detweiler, a friend of the aforementioned family's father, Captain von Trapp. You can read our interview below!
Can you give our readers a brief introduction to you and your career in theatre?
Jake Mills: My name's Jake Mills, and I started in theatre, like most of the kids I know, doing community theatre. We were living in Oklahoma because my dad was in the military. He found this community theatre out there, and the first show I ever did was Fiddler on the Roof, I was one of the little boys. Then I did The Music Man. Interestingly, we teched this year's show, The Sound of Music, at the theatre in Oklahoma City where we did community theatre at. It was actually kind of full circle.
From there, we moved around a lot and I ended up going to high school in Virginia. That's where I got involved in the theatre program in high school. My senior year, I had planned on joining the military, but my choir teacher convinced me to go to school for music. I said that if I got into the music program at Christopher Newport University in Newport News, Virginia, I'd go. I did, so I went.
From there, I got a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre, and also a Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance. I did all the plays and musicals I could throughout college, worked professionally for the Virginia Opera, and once I graduated in 2011 I moved straight to New York City. One of the first things I did was Avenue Q, which was at a regional theatre near New York City. My first real big thing I booked was the national tour of Annie, which I did in 2014 and 2015. That actually brought me to the Fisher Theatre in Detroit for the first time, and then I came again last year with The Sound of Music. This will be my third time coming through to Detroit.
In your own words, how would you describe the story of The Sound of Music?
Well the story of The Sound of Music, I think, has got many facets to it. It mainly follows the story of Maria, obviously with many other stories within it including the Captain's evolution from being very stern to being opened up with music and what-not. Also, I think the main story is really that we all have basically one life to live, and so what are we going to do with that life? Are you going to do what's right, or what's easy?
What was your introduction to this musical? I know for a lot of people, their introduction was the movie.
Right, which actually wasn't mine. I actually never saw the movie as a kid. I'm a little embarrassed to say, I never watched the movie until I booked the role. My first introduction, which I didn't really know as a kid, was my grandma. She would actually sing the songs to me from the show. I didn't know what it was, but she used to sing "My Favorite Things" all the time to me growing up.
What's your favorite song to perform in the show? What's your favorite song that you don't perform?
Sure. My favorite song is "No Way to Stop It." It's the song that Elsa, the Captain and I sing. It's a very big turning point for the Captain. We're telling him that this is the way the world is, there's no way to stop it, there's nothing you can do, so you just gotta play along with whatever comes your way and keep your head down. I think it's a really great song in that sense because it has a very uptempo beat to it all, but what we're really saying is kind of dark, in a way. I find that really interesting.
And for the song I don't perform? I mean, I love "Climb Ev'ry Mountain," I think it's just a great song. But, if we're talking about performing and the staging of it all, I think "The Lonely Goatherd" is my favorite. The way they staged it with the kids jumping on the bed, it's a lot of joy.
What's your favorite part about playing this role and being in this show?
I get to be the comedic relief. I think that's my favorite part, having the opportunity to make the audience laugh. There's a lot of serious themes throughout the show, but my scenes are mostly standard comedy and they're more upbeat. I really enjoy having the opportunity to do that. That's what I really like about being in this show. The role is very high energy, but at the same time he is one of those people who keeps his head down, or tries to keep his cards close to his chest and make everyone happy. I think everyone really tunes into Max and really likes Max because he makes them laugh and he's fun, but then at the same time, he's not someone you want to trust or rely on in any way. He's only about self interest.
What would you say to someone with no or limited exposure to The Sound of Music to get them to come see the show?
I think this show has something actually for everyone. There's a lot of shows nowadays that are family-friendly, but this is one where you're not going to suffer through if you're an adult. It does have those adult themes, but they're very subtle. I think this is one of those shows where you are definitely going to find something to take away from it and enjoy. That's why it has been such a timeless piece of musical theatre.
Do you have any dream roles you'd like to play after Max?
I want to do Les Mis, that's the one that always comes to mind first. It doesn't really matter what part I would play. Eponine, fine, I'll do it. No one's going to cast me as Eponine, but I would do it just to do this show. Definitely one day I want to play Valjean, for sure.
Do you have any social media accounts you'd like BWW readers to follow?
My Instagram is pretty vibrant, I'm always posting stories and stuff. My handle is @mrjakemills.
Tickets for The Sound of Music are on sale now online at https://www.313presents.com/.
Connect with The Sound of Music on Twitter at @SoundofMusic, on Instagram at @soundofmusicontour, on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/TheSoundOfMusicOnTour/, and at http://thesoundofmusicontour.com/.